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Mariners end drought


SEATTLE — For all the rain that this lush region of thwe country accumulates, more than any major US city, there’s been a widespread drought here as equally insatiable as it is intangible.

The Mariners, who on their best days can be the most coveted and beloved show in town, have longed to return to that elite stage, but the drought has weighed down those ambitions, especially as it lingered for two decades.

Manager Scott Servais says he thinks about the drought every day but acknowledges that it comes with the territory, a byproduct of 20 long years seeping into the fabric of an organization to the point where it becomes ingrained in its identity.

And now, the drought is over. A reign is underway in Seattle, and finally, the longest active playoff void in North American professional sports has ended. The Mariners, at long last, are headed to the postseason.

Cal Raleigh crushed a massive, 408-foot solo homer in a full count with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning that sent Seattle to a 2-1 walk-off victory over the A’s and into the postseason for the first time since 2001.

Raleigh, pinch-hitting for Luis Torrens, dug out a low-and-in slider from Oakland reliever Domingo Acevedo and sent the tiebreaking shot into the Seattle night, off the Hit It Here Café windows beyond right field. He raised his bat high, turned to the home dugout, then was off and running while the rest of the Mariners stormed to home plate to mob the burly backstop.

“The moment when I knew it was fair and then looking at the team and everybody’s jumping, it was just crazy,” Raleigh said.

Seattle, which entered the day with a magic number of one, clinched an AL Wild Card berth. The club holds the No. 5 seed by a half-game over Tampa Bay and trails Toronto by two games for the top Wild Card spot, the only non-division-winning seed that would host the best-of-three first round next weekend.

Given the weight of the stakes and the wait of the moment, did it live up to everything that the Mariners thought it’d be?

“Yeah, and more,” Servais said. “I think with the fact that we’re in our ballpark, there’s 40,000 people here tonight, it’s better than maybe what you can even dream it could be. And it’s a testament to our players.”

After the Mariners doused themselves with champagne and broke out the cigars in the home clubhouse, the seventh-year manager led a charge back to the field, where he gave a passionate speech to a huge crowd that remained — capped with an emphatic urging: “Let’s party!”

(Major League Baseball)

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